ESCONDIDO, Calif. (KGTV) - Family members grieving the COVID-19 death of an Escondido father of five and fast food worker at the age of 43.
Gabriel Lira's wife, Esmirna, was the first to get sick, testing positive for COVID-19 in mid-December. Within a week, Lira also developed symptoms.
"No taste, then no smell. Then back, leg pain, headaches, coughing, and shortness of breath," said 17-year-old William, Lira's son.
About 10 days later, Lira, a diabetic, was admitted into a hospital. Days later, he was placed on a ventilator. On Jan. 21, Lira, a husband and father of five, including a 4-year-old, passed away at the age of 43.
William could only say goodbye through glass.
"I did say, 'I love you lot, will be carrying on for this family ... and fighting for this family, just like he would have wanted," said William.
William says his dad was a dedicated father, a fixture at his soccer games.
"He wasn’t just my dad. He was my best friend also," said William.
William says his father was hard-working and a longtime employee for a fast-food chain, where he was recently promoted to safety coordinator and helped prepare for health inspections. Lira's wife also worked for the same chain.
William doesn't know how she contracted the virus, but says both parents were diligent about wearing masks. Once she tested positive, she was quarantined in a bedroom.
"Masks on in the house, constantly sanitizing everything," said William. But Lira, and then the rest of the family, contracted COVID-19. All but Lira would recover.
As the pandemic endures, and restaurants re-open for outdoor dining, William says he's holding off on going out to eat. For those that do, he has an urgent plea.
"Do maintain your six feet apart, and keep your mask on ... I don't want what happened to us to happen to you," said William.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the family with medical and burial expenses.